Unless you closely follow Missouri Valley Conference women’s golf, the name Samantha Richdale probably isn’t familiar.
Last spring, led by Richdale, Illinois State nearly became the Cindrella story of the postseason. Playing on their home course, the Redbirds tied for ninth at the NCAA Central Regional and missed advancing to the national championship by two strokes.
Richdale placed sixth in the regional and became the first Illinois State golfer to qualify for the NCAA Championship, where she tied for 57th with a respectable 11-over-par 299 total.
In her first two seasons, Richdale, from Kelowna, British Columbia, competed in all 20 of Illinois State’s tournaments and won four times – including last year’s MVC title. She completed her sophomore season ranked 140th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Collegiate Rankings, after finishing her freshman year No. 274.
“Watching her develop and seeing the success she had at regionals and nationals last spring, we go into this year with high expectations,” Illinois State coach Ray Kralis said. “I hate to put the weight of the world on her shoulders, but she has always come through.”
Richdale, with a stroke average of 75.7 last season, has rewritten the Redbirds’ record books.
“No doubt she has been the best at Illinois State – she is a difference maker and is elevating the program by herself,” Kralis said.
Although Richdale is beginning to make a name for herself at the college level, she is used to being somewhat unnoticed. As a junior player, she did not receive a lot of attention from colleges, and Illinois State was the only school in the picture for her, something she’d like to repay by giving the Redbirds a higher profile nationally.
“I want to get the team to nationals and keep improving individually,” said Richdale, who is majoring in chemistry.
After two events, Richdale has finished sixth and tied for 16th, respectively – not quite up to par. But her teammates appear ready to help her get the Redbirds back to the postseason.
Illinois State won its home tournament and placed fifth at the Mary Fossum Invitational last weekend at Michigan State.
Senior Katie Laehn has led the Redbirds in their first two events and sophomore Chelsea Bach also has played well, but expect Richdale to get back into the swing of things soon.
“She has struggled with her putting, and that has got in her head a bit and she knows better than that,” Kralis said. “She is playing well, but just not getting a lot out of her rounds right now.”